Surviving Loss: Lean into Grief during the Holidays

By Brittany Stewart

by Danielle Dolin

I miss his hugs the most. The world felt calm and safe in his embrace. And, his voice. I miss his voice. With the thought of him, a lump grows in my throat, makes my eyes swell over, and takes my breath away. When my Father passed, I think he took a part of me with him. I am sure of it. I still cannot talk about him without crying.

For those who have lost a loved one, a parent, a spouse, a friend, a child; the grief you carry is constant. Grief is forever in this life. It does not go away. Because, Grief is Love. Love endures all things and never ends. When you grieve, examine your heart. The truth is that you are longing for the people that gave you joy.

There are times after the loss of a loved one where our hearts are calm, and peace engulfs our troubled spirits. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4. But then there are times when our grief is magnetized. Swelling up like an unavoidable storm over a mountain top. Often, this is during the Holiday season. And, for a good reason. The Holidays are supposed to be some of the most joyful times. Times we spend with those we love. Memories of family and friends gathered around the Christmas tree, exchanging gifts, reading books, playing games, making cookies surround us. Some of our most cherished memories of our loved ones are during this time of year. So, how do we celebrate when our grief is greater than our strength? When we turn the page of the book and are flooded with tears? When we hear a song in the store and can’t hold it together?

We turn to God and integrate our bereavement into our celebrations. We cannot avoid the feelings of grief because they will always be with us and are amplified this time of year. So, don’t shun grief, lean into it. Our tears are a symbol of the happiness that person brought to us and how much we miss them; they should be celebrated.

Lean into Grief Through Tranquil Prayer

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Psalm 34:18

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Silence is the hardest when dealing with grief because it is loud! For those grieving, it can also be a deeply engulfing feeling to be stuck with your thoughts and drowning feelings. We keep busy because the quiet can be scary, overwhelming. Conversely, it is in silence and intentional prayer that you are drawn closer to God. Prayer is more intense and intimate when your surroundings are calm. So, lean into this grief through tranquil prayer. Pray for Jesus to take your hand and give you strength. Pray for your heart to recognize that the pain felt is only the love you feel for the person you lost. Pray for comfort in place of uncertainty. Pray for strength in place of weakness. Pray for happiness in place of anger. Be intentional in your prayer and know that God is holding you close.

Lean into Grief by Lighting a Candle

“You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalms 18:28

There is power in light. A healing power. For centuries, the lighting of candles has had profound spiritual meaning for Christians. The upward flight of the candle’s flickering flame is like a prayer rising to heaven. Lean into grief by lighting a candle near a picture of your loved one you are missing. Lean into grief by lighting a candle during a Holiday meal to remind you of their presence. The simple beauty of a lit candle can ease your heartache and make the memory of your loved one come with reverence.

Lean into Grief through Sharing

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Often, the grief you hold is shared by another. This can be a tricky situation because your way of handling grief may not be suitable for the other person. And vice versa. Pay special attention to the grief children share, as this is often overlooked. They may be smaller, but their grief can be triumphant. Try “sharing” your grief together. Meaning, reflect on the person you are missing. Choose a jovial memory. Perhaps a funny one, and share it like a story. Cherish it. Lean into it. Yes, the tears may come, but a smile will too. Your hearts will be lifted.

Lean into Grief by Continuing a Tradition

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Philippians 1:3

Lean into grief by fostering a feeling of closeness even in your loved one’s absence. Continuing traditions is a reminder that the person you love and miss so much does continue to exist: they continue to exist in our hearts and minds. Continuing traditions is one of the most valuable tools you can give yourself and your children. For example, my father loved reading the book, “The Polar Express” on Christmas Eve. I am not sure whether it was the essence of the book or the ambiance of the evening, cuddled by his children and grandchildren, that made this tradition stick. But, it was particularly special to all of us, continually drawing a tear of joy from everyone. For a while after his passing, I could not look at the book without weeping. However, one Christmas Eve, I stumbled upon a picture of him reading it. Wrapped in love. I could feel the emotion I felt that night, sitting with my son, listening to the story by the twinkling of the Christmas tree. So, rather than shun the grief, I leaned into it. I picked up the book and continued the tradition with my children. Although, my tone and inflections may not have paralleled his charm, I put my own touch on it and was uplifted. It was tremendously healing. The tradition remains in our family today. My children know him through this book. Do not avoid traditions because of grief. With the strength of the Lord, lean into them and celebrate your departed this Holiday season.

Grief has no timeline. Be patient with yourself during this Holiday season and surround yourself with a strong support group. I pray that when grief strikes your hearts or when it seems larger than your strength, you lean into it. Do not despair, do not strife, do not run away from love. Rather remedy through quiet prayer, through light, through sharing, and through tradition. Through Faith. Sing the song that made you cry a little louder. Read the book you could not hold with passion. Lean into grief, finding refuge in love.

As an aside, I pray that our community lovingly remember and acknowledge those who are grieving by expressing warm sentiments of care, a listening ear, or a warm embrace this Holiday season. I invite all to pray that God’s abundant love and everlasting faithfulness will blanket those who have lost a loved one this Holiday season.


Brittany Stewart, an accomplished writer and educator, draws inspiration from her 23-year marriage and upbringing near Lake Tahoe in Verdi, Nevada, now residing in Tucson, Arizona. With her Bachelor’s degree in Education, emphasizing Native American Literature and Journalism, Brittany is a multifaceted professional who is also a Licensed Massage Therapist. She is deeply involved in Tucson’s homeschooling community, leading a homeschool group, teaching dance, and offering art classes. She and her family have a homestead in Southern Arizona, where her husband hunts and she tends to the garden, emphasizing the importance of God and family in her life while continually seeking adventure through her travels.

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